COVID-19: Guidance from the Church in Wales

Last year, the Church in Wales issued COVID-19 Advice for Services during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, Version 1, 26 January 2021 (Alert Level Four). This was based on the advice issued by the Church of England’s COVID-19 Recovery Group Lent and Holy Week and Easter posted on 19 January 2021, four weeks before Ash Wednesday. The Church in Wales guidance included amendments specific to the particular context in which it operates, and was to be read in conjunction with the latest COVID-19 provincial guidance.

This year, on 18 February the Church in Wales issued advice for Ash Wednesday, which was followed by further guidance in relation to Alert Level Zero.

This notes that from the 28 February, face coverings are only required by law in retail, public transport and health and care settings. Face coverings would not be required in places of worship or community buildings from that date but could “still be a useful measure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as part of local risk management measures”. Furthermore, face coverings were recommended during the imposition of ashes given the close proximity of people.

On 2 March, the Church’s guidance notes were updated to reflect the latest regulations for alert level zero.

At Alert Level Zero, from February 28th 2022, there are no legal limits (for COVID reasons) on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events. In addition, all businesses and premises may be open and activities can fully resume. However, the Welsh Government has kept some legal requirements to help reduce the spread of the virus and help protect the most vulnerable. Businesses, employers and other organisations have a duty to protect their employees and customers while on their premises. There are three legal requirements that remain at Alert Level Zero:

1. Businesses, employers and other organisations, including activity and event organisers, must undertake a coronavirus risk assessment of their premises and activities and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus based on that risk assessment.

2. If a person tests positive for Covid-19, they must self-isolate for 5 full days and should take a lateral flow test on day 5 and another test 24 hours later on day 6. If both results are negative, it is likely they are not infectious and can stop isolating. Anyone who tests positive on either day 5 or day 6 must continue to self-isolate until they have 2 negative tests taken 24 hours apart or until day 10, whichever comes first.

3. It remains a legal requirement to prepare a written risk assessment to control the risk of Covid transmission and the guidance seeks to help local church councils consider what would be appropriate in their circumstances. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect clergy, volunteers, members of the congregation or visitors from coronavirus (as with other hazards). Undertaking a COVID-19 risk assessment assists the management risks and protect people. Accordingly, churches must:

  • identify what activity or situation under their control might cause or support or enable transmission of the virus (the hazards);
  • consider who could be at risk;
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed (the risk);
  • act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk by applying reasonable measures.

The Bench of Bishops also signalled that, subject to local risk assessment, the common cup might be restored from Easter Day. They noted that there is no requirement to do so and communion in one kind remains valid. No communicant should feel compelled to take the common cup.

On 4 March, the Welsh Government published Together for a Safer Future: Wales’ Long-term Covid-19 Transition from Pandemic to Endemic, setting out a gradual transition away from emergency measures. Under it, Wales’s response will change under the two core planning scenarios – Covid Stable and Covid Urgent. The Government expects Covid Stable to be the most likely scenario. Wales is expected to encounter new waves of infection but not so severe that they will put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. See COVID-19: transitioning from emergency measures in Wales.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "COVID-19: Guidance from the Church in Wales" in Law & Religion UK, 9 March 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/03/09/covid-19-guidance-from-the-church-in-wales/

 

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